Monthly Archives: November 2012

Cozy Classics – Board Books

It’s never too early to get your kids and my soon-to-be little reader, into the classics. There are already a few other versions of the classics as board books, but these Cozy Classics seem too cute to overlook.

I already have big dreams to plan a future bookclub for my soon-to-be mommy friends with these books. We’re all major booknerds, so I guess they just go hand-in-hand.

Cozy Classics is a new board book series presenting well-loved stories through 12 child-friendly words and 12 needle-felted illustrations.

Fall 2012 release

 

Spring 2013 release

 

But if Cozy Classics aren’t your thing, there’s always BabyLit

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The Casual Vacancy by JK Rowling – Review

book jacketThe Casual Vacancy by JK Rowling
Age: Adult
Genre: Fiction
Source: My Copy
Publisher: Little, Brown & Co, 2012
ISBN: 9780316228534, 503 pages
Find this book at your local library

When Barry Fairbrother dies in his early forties, the small English town of Pagford is left in shock. Pagford is, seemingly an idyllic city in which everybody knows each other. But what lies beneath the pretty facade is a town at war. The rich are at war with the poor, the teenagers  are rebelling against their parents, wives distrustful of their husbands, etc. The empty seat on the town’s council soon becomes the catalyst for the biggest war the town has yet seen.

For having a rather tumultuous summary, The Casual Vacancy is not really a page-turner. It is dreary and dismal, with nary a light of hope. It’s a full ensemble cast, but I didn’t have any difficulty keeping up with the various storylines. A few of the storylines petered out towards the end, as others gained more momentum. I’m not quite sure if this a negative, because I didn’t really care for the characters whose plot-line ran out of steam.

I enjoyed this book, I enjoyed the characters, and thought this book was more a character study than a plot driven novel. The plot is very subtle, almost non-existent. After Barry Fairbrother dies, everyone with an agenda makes a leap towards the empty council seat. From the pompous to the naive to the corrupt, everyone makes a play for the seat in order to further their best interests, the rest of the town be damned.

This book is a complete 180 from Harry Potter, and I went into it expecting it to be as much. I think, perhaps the biggest difference between the Casual Vacancy and Harry Potter is the blurred line between Good and Evil. It was very clearly drawn out in the HP series, whereas you can’t really tell in the Casual Vacancy. There are definitely some bad guys, but the rest of the characters are just caught up in their lives, the same way we do in our lives. None of the characters are particularly endearing, but I don’t really think they are meant to be. There is no hero in this novel. We make wrong decisions based on instinct and survival, rather than considering the greater good. Rowling uses this characters to discuss a number of adult themes in this novel: drug abuse, domestic abuse, political corruption, moral corruption, bullying, cyber-bullying, the list goes on.

For the most part, I thought the novel was well-paced, although it could have sufficed with about 100 fewer pages and still gotten the point across.

The Family Fang by Kevin Wilson – Review

The family FangThe Family Fang by Kevin Wilson
Age: Adult
Genre: Fiction
Source: My copy
Publisher: Ecco, 2011
ISBN: 9780061579035, 309 pages
Find this book at your local library

Caleb and Camille Fang dedicated their lives and their children’s lives to making great art, which falls into the realm of subverting normality and causing scenes of chaos. For as long as Annie and Buster Fang, Child A and Child B, can remember they have had starring roles (sometimes unwillingly) in their parents’ pieces. Now that they are grown up, the chaos of their childhood has made it difficult for them to cope with life away from their parents. When the lives they’ve built come crashing down, brother and sister have nowhere to go but home, where they discover that Caleb and Camille are planning one last performance– their greatest feat yet.  Soon, the Fangs to face the difficult decision about what’s ultimately more important: their family or their art.

This is definitely one of my favorite books of the year. Its well-written, thoughtful, moving, with just the right amounts of dark humor spread throughout the novel. The chapters alternate between the Family Fang performance pieces, and the lives of Annie and Buster as they fall apart, and struggle to put makes things whole again. It’s an interesting character study, but Wilson didn’t delve too far into the psychology of why the Fangs are such a dysfunctional family.

Camille and Caleb are obsessively consumed by the need to make great art. The why and how their kids got sucked into their work is explained later on in the novel. Although Annie goes on to be a famous actress and Buster a well-known author, neither has any foundation of stability in their lives. When things fall apart and they both return home, they retreat into themselves, hiding from the world. The final performance piece done by their parents puts Annie and Buster into a situation in which they end up helping themselves cope with their frustrating lives and taking steps towards normalcy.

I really have no complaints about this book. I read through some LibraryThing reviews, focusing mainly on the 1-star & 2-star reviews, but I didn’t agree with any of the complaints. The book was humorous, but it’s not a comedy. Its insightful, but not pretentious. The characters are well-rounded and despite their faults, they are lovable. The concept is quirky, and for me the novel felt short. I wanted to know more about Caleb and Camille. What led them to this insane drive to create art, not caring about the toll their art took on their kids.

Laura’s Loop Infant Mittens

After a long, long hiatus, I’m glad to be knitting again. Although I need to take frequent breaks because my carpal tunnel keeps acting up. Which stinks, because right now my main focus is on baby knits for….ta da! My little baby that’s incubating in my womb right now. =)

I’ve also been knitting for friends who are expecting as well. I recently finished a couple of baby cardigans, and more recently, these adorable little mittens from The Purl Bee.

Baby mittensThis pattern is ridiculously easy to follow and so quick to make! It took me only a few hours from start to finish. The original mittens are white with stripes, but all I have is red sock yarn, so I went with solid colored mitts. I do want to make more though, and try them out in various sizes. These are great for newborns because it’ll keep the tots from scratching up their faces with their fingernails, and it’ll keep the little one warm during winter. Not that the Bay Area has much of a winter. I guess it’ll keep the little bugger warm on trips up to San Francisco.

In addition to more baby knitting pattern posts, I’m going to start reviewing some of the baby books and DVDs I’ve been reading/watching throughout this pregnancy. There have been quite a few, from plain pregnancy books to developing readers types of books. So much information is out there! Its super overwhelming.